Like Joe Simpson and Jon Sciambi mentioned on today's telecast from Philadelphia -- this one felt like last July.
In July, the Braves had given themselves a big early lead, when the bullpen was summoned to hold a lead for Mike Hampton in the 5th inning. What was a 9-3 Braves lead in the middle of the 5th became a 10-9 Phillies lead by innings end, capped by a poorly located fastball from Blaine Boyer to Greg Dobbs which landed in the right field seats for a three-run homer.
This time it was more of the same - but different. The Phillies didn't pound the Braves on Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park -- they walked on them.
Javier Vazquez wasn't dominant, but he left the game after six innings with a big 10-3 lead - a lead built with Chipper Jones and Garret Anderson on the bench. Two-run homers by Brian McCann and Jordan Schafer along with 2 RBIs each from Jeff Francoeur and Matt Diaz in a five-run 3rd chased Phillie starter Joe Blanton early.
Vazquez had a few walks during the day, but he was able to get out of those situations with the lead.
I felt bad for Bobby Cox as no matter what reliever he brought in during that 7th inning, he couldn't get an out.
Eric O'Flaherty's trouble came when he couldn't put away Ryan Howard, and hit him in the arm instead of getting an all important 2nd out and keeping Chase Utley (bloop single) on 1st.
Peter Moylan - couldn't find the strike zone. When he did - it got hit.
Blaine Boyer - couldn't find the strike zone. 8 of his 9 pitches were balls, as the only 2 batters he faced he walked in a run.
Jorge Campillo at least got some outs. The problem was the damage was done by the time he was able to end the inning. The run charged to him as he allowed the first 2 batters of the 8th inning to reach turned out to be the difference.
If only Jeff Bennett was ready earlier. He did allow one of Campillo's inherited runners to score on a sacrifice fly, but turned out to be the only reliever not to give up a run.
So let's do the math
Vazquez: 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 5 K
Bennett: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K
O'Flaherty: 1/3 IP, 2 ER, 1 H, 1 HBP
Moylan: 0 IP, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 H (9 Balls, 7 Strikes)
Boyer: O IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, (8 Balls, 1 Strike)
Campillo: 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 H
-- Combined awful: 1 IP, 9 ER, 5 H, 1 HBP, 6 BB
The bullpen in one inning ruined what should've been an easy sweep for the Braves, especially given a 7-run lead to start the 7th inning.
The Matt Diaz solo home run in the 9th off Brad Lidge made the game close again for a moment, but Lidge's slider was too much for Francoeur and pinch-hitter Garret Anderson.
The Braves starting pitching is vastly improved as the starters combined totals in the series were:
19 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 11 H, 7 BB.
I don't know a team that wouldn't love their starters to average 6 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits and 2 walks each start.
Meanwhile, the Braves offense did score 19 runs on eight home runs in the series. They didn't have to face Cole Hamels, but the offensive output is promising as the season continues.
Derek Lowe starts the Braves' home opener on Friday against the Nationals. Let's hope the bullpen woes don't follow them back to Turner Field.
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